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Stephen Gallacher merits Ryder Cup recognition but he is applying to join an exclusive club

IN these flabbergasting times of instant celebrity and rapidly changing trends, it appears that the thing to be at the moment is an ex-hurricane.

Stephen Gallacher faces a nervous wait for a wild card place after missing out on automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup. Picture: Getty Sport
Stephen Gallacher faces a nervous wait for a wild card place after missing out on automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup. Picture: Getty Sport

Maybe it's just me but every time I've unfurled the daily rag recently, I've been confronted by headlines roaring about this latest meteorological phenomenon, accompanied by sultry, suggestive pictures of its tightly-packed isobars. Forget images of a so-called reality TV star tottering out of a swanky night club, it seems the nation can't get enough of ex-hurricane Bertha or ex-hurricane Cristobel.

Apparently all this atmospheric activity is to do with climate change but we golf writers have always been an environmentally friendly bunch, even though I thought my carbon footprint was a bruise caused from a kick on the backside by a disgruntled coal miner.

In the furious countdown to the announcement of Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup wild cards over the past week, the recycling of various 'will he, won't he' stories would get us honorary membership of Friends of the Earth.

By lunchtime today there will be something new to talk about as McGinley makes the eagerly anticipated unveiling of the final three members of Team Europe. It's been quite a hang on, on a par with waiting for that new addition to pop out in the panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

Even those bamboo-munching beasts probably know that Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher have been involved in the wild card skirmish, so remorseless have been the ponderings and pontifications of late. We have made no secret of our desire to see Scotsman Gallacher earn a call-up for the biennial battle at Gleneagles later this month.

It would not be tokenism; it would be thoroughly merited, Gallacher having missed out on an automatic place by the narrowest of margins on the points list. His predicament, however, simply underlines just how hellishly difficult it is to elbow your way into the qualifying slots. He conjured the best season of his career and he still came up short.

For the rest of those European Tour campaigners who compete largely on this side of the Atlantic, a pick for Gallacher would at least give some hope to the majority in this developing meritocracy. Let's face it, the Ryder Cup qualifying process has become something of a closed shop and a privileged few - namely those in the top 50 of the world rankings - have a huge advantage over the rank and file.

In that rarefied atmosphere, there are events with more money while many of these 'nice work if you can get it' tournaments either don't have full fields or there is no cut. Or both. Thomas Bjorn, for instance, earned a colossal number of Ryder Cup points at the start of the season by winning the Nedbank Challenge against just 30 players. It was a victory that had a significant impact on his place in the automatic qualifying spots for Gleneagles and he's not been out of that zone since.

Gallacher hoisted himself into that lofty top-50 club by winning February's Dubai Desert Classic and was suddenly rewarded with lip-smacking opportunities in the majors and a series of lucrative PGA Tour events in the US. He'll be the first to admit that he didn't make the most of those chances but his performances on his home tour in Europe continued to keep the dream alive.

That dream started a year ago in the Wales Open. A young Norwegian called Espen Kofstadt shot a sizzling 64 in the first round of the first qualifying event and admitted afterwards that he had "put in a decent [Ryder Cup] application".

By the end of the week, he had finished tied 62nd and has barely been seen since. For great legions of that aforementioned rank and file, the Ryder Cup is so far out of reach it may as well be staged on the inner rings of Saturn.

Since the turn of the century, only 32 players have represented Europe in the Ryder Cup. Once you get a foot in the door it is, by and large, difficult to get out and the turnover of players is hardly rampant. Seven of the nine qualifiers for this year's team all have a Ryder Cup back catalogue. The history of the wild card picks usually favours past experience too.

Then again, Edoardo Molinari upset this old boys' network in 2010 when Colin Montgomerie, the Europe captain, handed him a captain's pick. The Italian had won three times on the European Tour that season but, having started the qualifying campaign outside the top 50, he still found himself on the wrong side of the automatic places. In many ways, that illustrated a major flaw in the system.

Gleneagles will be a field of golfing dreams when the Ryder Cup swings into action in a few weeks' time. The race to this transatlantic tussle doesn't take place on a level playing field, though.

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